Affiliate links on our site may earn us commissions. Learn More.

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this website you are giving consent to cookies being used. Visit our Privacy Policy.

arrow
Newsletter

Discover The Best Wellness Tips In Your Inbox

Subscribe to Health Reporter’s newsletter and get our health experts’ highlights and the latest news about healthy living.
The newsletters are spam-free and sent from our health experts and professionals.
sent

Thank You!

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter!
Home arrow Nutrition arrow Intermittent Fasting arrow Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol: Is It a Match?

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol: Is It a Match?

HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 17, 2024
7 min read 474 Views 0 Comments
clock 7 eye 474 comments 0

The intermittent fasting bar: when to raise a glass

intermittent fasting and alcohol

Is a lifestyle trend, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular. While it’s recognized as a potentially useful tool in weight management, it’s most effective when paired with a healthy diet and regular exercise, rather than as a standalone measure.

During intermittent fasting, you alternate between eating periods, called eating windows, and fasting periods, called fasting windows. There is some evidence that intermittent fasting may reduce body fat, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and the risk of heart disease.

But one of the most nagging questions for most people is if the diet regimen does not restrict what you eat or drink, can you drink alcohol while on intermittent fasting?

This article gives a detailed analysis of the effect of alcohol consumption while on intermittent fasting and whether it can affect your weight loss or overall health goals.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Fasting?

The goal of intermittent fasting is to restrict calories within the fasting window. During fasting, your body breaks down body fat because glucose is not readily available to release ketones as an alternate source of energy. As a result of the metabolic switch, intermittent fasting has several potential benefits, including weight loss and autophagy.

So what breaks a fast? Any calorie-containing foods or drinks, including alcohol, can disrupt fasting and halt ketosis. When you eat, the body breaks down the food into glucose to provide energy for normal body functions. Alcohol is a calorie dense drink with little or zero nutritional benefits, which causes blood sugar levels to rise and prevents your body from breaking down stored fat.

That means that you cannot take alcohol during the fasting window. If you have to drink alcohol while intermittent fasting, limit your intake of high-calorie alcoholic drinks with mixed sugary drinks during the eating window, as they can affect your daily calorie intake, cause weight gain, and interfere with your intermittent fasting goals.

Guidelines for Combining Intermittent Fasting with Alcohol

The CDC guidelines for moderate alcohol consumption stipulate that women can take up to one drink a day while men can take up to two drinks per day. However, with intermittent fasting, it is advisable to limit your intake to, at most, three drinks per week, as excessive alcohol consumption may disrupt the metabolic benefits of fasting.

Although it is generally safe to drink alcohol while on intermittent fasting, you should avoid it during the fasting window, and you should only take it within the eating window. Limit your intake of high-calorie drinks such as beer, cocktails, and rum with mixed sugary drinks as they increase your calorie intake and block fat breakdown. Instead, get an occasional drink with fewer calories, such as vodka, light beer, dry red or white wine, and tequila mixed with calorie-free drinks such as plain water, coconut water, or lime water.

The effects of alcohol may be intensified if you consume it on an empty stomach due to its faster absorption into the bloodstream. Adopt moderate alcohol consumption at meal times within your eating window with healthy foods such as whole grains and lean proteins, and avoid high-fat accompaniments such as fries and steak.

Downsides of Drinking Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting

While intermittent fasting provides a structured approach to eating that many find beneficial for health and weight management, adding alcohol to the mix can complicate things. We’ll examine the potential downsides of consuming alcohol during your fasting journey, explaining how it could impact your goals and overall well-being.

#1 May disrupt overall progress during intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting and alcohol may not go well together because the body tends to metabolize alcohol first before food. Alcohol is absorbed quickly in the bloodstream, particularly on an empty stomach. This means that the calories in the alcohol will be used first as a source of fuel instead of carbs, proteins, and fats in food. 

Therefore, alcohol consumption may interfere with your health goals, as it may impair ketosis, potentially affect fat storage, and affect liver function. On the flip side, intermittent fasting helps the body burn fat, reduce body fat percentage, and help you lose weight. Therefore, drinking alcohol while on intermittent fasting for weight loss may counteract your efforts.

#2 May interrupt fat burning and metabolism

There is evidence that alcohol can have varying effects on your metabolism, potentially affecting fat processing and weight loss attempts. Furthermore, alcohol may lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver, which also leads to weight gain, particularly in the midsection. 

Research reveals that heavy alcohol consumption correlates with a high risk of weight gain because it blocks fat breakdown. It has been suggested that moderate consumption of alcohol may be associated with better outcomes and may be linked to a lower risk of excessive body fat accumulatio. Another study revealed that people who consume excess alcohol and eat fewer calories from food have a higher BMI.

#3 May impact blood sugar levels

During intermittent fasting, the goal is to limit insulin production by reducing calorie intake to trigger the body to use fats instead. However, consuming alcohol during fasting increases insulin production due to the high amount of calories in the drink and makes the body use the available glucose for energy.

Furthermore, drinking alcohol when fasting does more harm than good as it is absorbed faster when taken on an empty stomach, which causes blood sugar spikes and may lead to insulin resistance.

A study that compared the blood sugar levels of 46 habitual drinkers with type 2 diabetes and 35 nondrinkers with type two diabetes revealed that alcohol consumption has a direct impact on blood sugar levels.

#4 May increase hunger

Intermittent fasting and alcohol work in parallel directions. While intermittent fasting curbs your appetite and reduces your feeling of hunger, alcohol does the opposite.

In some cases, alcohol can stimulate appetite, which may lead to an increase in hunger. It may be challenging to maintain a healthy diet due to this, leading you to overeat or have heightened cravings for foods high in fat or sugar, which could hinder your weight loss efforts.

#5 May promote inflammation

While moderate alcohol consumption might offer some health benefits, like potentially reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, it’s important to understand that excessive drinking can lead to inflammation. The inflammation is linked to a variety of health concerns, including diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease.

Chronic alcohol intake impairs liver function and reduces its ability to remove the potentially harmful toxins from alcohol consumed, which can disrupt your immune system and lead to chronic inflammation.

Research shows that alcohol can cause irritation of the gut lining and interfere with normal gut microflora and the natural detoxification system in the liver, which ultimately may cause inflammation and lead to adverse health issues.

A Word from Our MD

Expert image border HR_author_photo_Edna
Edna Skopljak, MD
Medical advisor for Health Reporter

Alcoholic beverages are calorie-dense and may contain more calories per gram than some macronutrients. For example, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram compared to 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates per gram.

This means that if you drink alcohol while intermittent fasting during the fasting periods, it may break your fast, block fat breakdown, and push your daily caloric intake limits. Therefore, if your goal is to lose weight, consider taking an alcohol break for a few months.

If you cannot give up alcohol, you may need to make a few changes. First, drink moderate amounts of low-calorie alcoholic beverages only twice or thrice a week during your eating window.

Second, limit alcohol consumption to at least three hours before bed, as it can disrupt your sleep patterns, which also can negatively impact your health and weight loss goals. Lastly, choose a fasting regimen that fits into your lifestyle and makes your intermittent fasting journey bearable. For example, if you want to share a drink with your friends occasionally, fit the timing to your eating window.

Whenever possible, take an alcohol break and enjoy healthy drinks such as plain water, unsweetened tea or coffee, and green tea, which are ideal even during the fasting window.

FAQ

Does alcohol affect autophagy?

Excessive alcohol intake can suppress autophagy and impair overall liver function. This is because most of the alcohol is metabolized in the liver, and overburdening it causes oxidative stress, which interferes with the repair of damaged cells and may cause liver injury.

How many drinks are okay per week if I’m doing intermittent fasting?

It is okay to drink up to three alcoholic drinks a week if you are doing intermittent fasting during your eating window.  Alcoholic drinks are high in calories, can interfere with your intermittent fasting goals, and may make it harder to lose weight.

Can you drink alcohol on the 16/8 diet?

You can drink alcohol in moderation with the 16:8 intermittent fasting regimen. However, limit alcohol intake within the 8 hours eating window and choose low calorie drinks and food accompaniment to reduce your overall calorie intake.

Conclusion

Consuming alcohol during fasting breaks the fast and hinders the metabolic switch responsible for the numerous benefits of intermittent fasting, such as weight loss, autophagy, and reduced inflammation. 

For intermittent fasting and alcohol to coexist, you must commit to adopt a moderate intake of low calorie alcoholic drinks such as dry red or white wine, vodka, and tequila mixed with low calorie drinks such as plain water during your eating window up to three times or less a week. If your goal is to lose weight, consume alcohol in moderation or give up drinking altogether.

Take frequent alcohol breaks whenever possible, as alcohol consumption may also have other side effects, such as increased inflammation, high blood sugar levels, and a higher risk of cancer and heart disease. Adopt an overall lifestyle change to improve your health, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise with moderate alcohol intake to reduce the risk of potential side effects of alcoholic drinks.

Beatrice Wairimu, RD
Beatrice is a registered dietician with vast experience in health and wellness. She specializes in writing for the health and fitness industry. When she is not writing, Beatrice coaches women on healthy eating, exercise, and mental wellness. Her goal is to educate people on healthy living through writing, health promotion, and coaching.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Was this article helpful?
check
Thank you! We received Your feedback
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 17, 2024
7 min read 474 Views 0 Comments
0 Comments

Leave a comment

checked
Thank you for your comment!
We will review it as soon as possible.
HealthReporter
Your Name
Missing required field
Your Comment
Missing required field

company-logo